“So you see, down deep where it counts, we probably aren’t so different after all. I’ll try hard to understand you, be patient with you and learn from you next year. Will you do the same for me?”

There are about 3,800 children (age 21 and under) of active Southern Baptist missionaries under appointment by the International Mission Board. As school starts this fall, hundreds of them will be in the United States for a semester or longer. They are thinking the same thoughts and feeling the same emotions as Janene. They’ll walk into U.S. classrooms, neighborhoods and churches wondering if anyone will welcome them.

Here are a few tips on how you -- and especially your kids -- can make them feel at home:

1. Take the initiative. Walk up and say hello. Don’t wait for a missionary kid, who’s almost always the “new kid” somewhere, to do it.

2. Show an interest in their “home” culture. “People need to understand that even though missionary kids look American, they may not always feel American,” explains IMB staff member Sharron Hawk, who counsels missionary families. “They often identify more closely with the culture where they were raised. If you really want to connect with them, find out something about what is home to them.”

3. Be patient. Missionary kids, Hawk says, “sometimes might be a little judgmental” about America and its shortcomings -- as well as the spiritual superficiality they see at times among U.S. church kids and youth.

4. Most of all, just be a friend. Some missionary kids eventually follow in their parents’ footsteps and take the Gospel to lost and needy people. Often, they need only a bit of encouragement and a nudge in the right direction from the right person at the right moment.

You might be that person.

Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice each month in Baptist Press.

© 2005 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.